When Do Upsets Happen in the NCAA Tournament?

Mike Krzyzewski

With the help of the Bet Labs software, we have a lot of different ways to analyze the NCAA tournament.  We could look at seeds, spreads, teams, coaches, and the list goes on and on. But one thing that I haven’t looked at before is when the game is played.  With the television schedule taking precedence over what is best for the players, games go on all day.

First, let’s define an upset.  A 9-seed beating an 8-seed as a 2-point dog isn’t going to cut it for me.  For this article, I defined an upset as an underdog that is a 12-seed or higher.  But we know that a 16-seed has never won and I’m not about to pick them this year.  And although some 15-seeds have pulled off the upset, I’m not going to include them either.  So I’m looking at 12, 13, and 14-seeds and when they make their upsets.

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Looking at the moneyline results above, you can see there is a lot of green at the beginning of the chart with coincides with the beginning of the day.  Those two data points at the far left include games starting during the 12:00 PM ET and 1:00 PM ET hours.

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While a 21-game sample isn’t ideal, that is always going to be an issue when looking at specific tournaments.  Still, a 38% win percentage for these huge upsets is a much higher number than we should expect.  Couple that with the fact that the most picked upset this season is 12-seed Yale at 19% and you can see where you can pick up some ground in your bracket pool if you had taken advantage of these earlier upsets.

This tournament, only one game fits these criteria.  Interestingly enough, it is the very first game of the tournament.  At 12:15 PM ET Thursday, the 4-seed Duke Blue Devils take on UNC Wilmington as 10.5 point favorites.  Maybe you believe that there is no way Coach K won’t have his team ready to go for a lesser opponent.

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Or then again, maybe UNC Wilmington is this year’s Mercer.

 

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